Friday, November 30, 2007

etiquette: interruption interaction urgency

Yesterday, I was trying to explain to Brad in what circumstances I might send an email vs. a txt vs. call someone. It came down to balancing interruption, interaction & urgency.

Interruption: Some media require the full attention of the respondent. They have to stop what they are doing right now. Face-to-face is (or should be) the primary example of this. Likewise calling someone requires that they interrupt themselves to interact. Email or txt causes less interruption for most people.

However sometime you have to interact with someone (e.g. discussing what movie to see that evening). I prefer the phone for that. It is possible with email or txt but it feels more clumsy (IM is better).

There is also the issue of urgency: I view txt as a more urgent medium than email (& voice trumps txt) but that depends on context.

That's how I rationalise what I do anyway.

How about you?

Peak email (2)

Patrick talks about the death of email and points to this article by Chad Lorenz. Email usage has already peaked for US teens. The rest of us will take a while to catch up but it can't be far away.

When I reflect on over a decade of online use and abuse (my masters thesis in '97 looked at the use of internet technology by information brokers), email has kept me in touch with existing friends but it has rarely allowed me to widen my social circle. Bulletin boards & chat sites did that (around such topics as UK indie music, chaos magick and, er, library studies).

I suspect the most valuable thing about email going forward will be having an email address to do other things with (not necessarily send or receive emails) - possibly tied to a mobile phone number.

We need to blow up the inbox and turn it into something new.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Forrester put someone else's money where their mouth is

It slipped my attention that Forrester are saying the US corporate social software market is worth $300M and is set to increase 5-fold over the next 5 years - remaining equally split between internal & external applications.

Points of interest:
- $300 million is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. But given the prevalence of open-source software in this area, is it worthwhile comparing spending on web 2.0 stuff with spending on, say, ERP?
- The equal split the internal & external uses (E2.0 has been getting more noise of late but still little compared to commercial world uses).
- The lion's share of the $ is being spent on social networking software. Which comes as a bit of a surprise. With most people I talk to, it's wikis, wikis, wikis for internal experiments. I'm guessing the social networking spend is being driven by external applications & marketing budgets!?!

UPDATE: A little information may be a dangerous thing. Check out the comments section regarding what the figures actually refer to.

Peak email

We may be about to reach peak email soon. Unlike peak oil, this will not be as a result of supply constraints. The well of those willing to send you emails about cosmetic surgery and stocktips remains seemingly bottomless. What will happen is that more and more people will use alternative tools (substitution) for collaboration & communication. And spam email as a % of total email traffic will continue to rise. Until all that's left in your in-box will be fake lottery wins and viagra ads.

Email is great but it's fungible.

The identity arms race

Coffee with Brad today. We were talking about a whole bunch of things (soon to be blogged). Brad asked me why people would expose themselves on things like Facebook & MySpace. Two thoughts came to mind:

1. Pay to play. If you want to intereact with others in this environment then you have to give something in return. And is often information about yourself. You can keep yourself hidden but are you willing to pay the opportunity costs for doing so?

2. The identity arms race. If we do not shape our public identities then others shape them for us. Therefore we are engaged in a constant struggle to constitute ourselves. Arms races are driven by competition and technological innovation. We have a whole bunch of new technologies that are driving an arms race of online identity creation ("Facebook, Twitter, blog, Second Life").

35 trillion emails - and they're all yours

Alex picks up on the email post and indicates that if you cross reference that with the number of actual net users it jumps to 79 per day. If we take this a step further, then what is the distribution of emails by user? I suspect it may be some kind of power law - with a small number of addresses sending and receiving the bulk of the email and a large proportion of the population sending and receiving very little.

There is also probably an asymmetry - those sending the bulk of the emails are not the same as those receiving them.

Alex makes a point about email overload. Email has been a victim of its own success. And it's impact over the last 15 years has been revolutionary. But we need to think about the shape of the post-email age. Is it going to be dizzying mess of email AND IM AND wikis AND other stuff..?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I think I sent my first email back in 1993. That period is all a bit hazy. I think I was doing it for a friend. But that could just be post-hoc self-justification.

About 35 trillion emails will be sent this year. That is approximately 17 emails a day for every person on this planet. Somewhat depressingly about 40% of these (7 per person) are spam.

This compares with 620 billion SMS texts in the first quarter of 2007 (which will mean 3 trillion for the year presumably). Or the 167 billion minutes of international telephone calls made in 2005.

That's a whole lot of talking going on. (N.B. I'd love to know the total number of phone calls made worldwide 2007 - anyone got that data?)

Which makes the number of blogs, wikis, etc out there look pretty puny.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's not about the people

I'm not the fastest person in the world. I get delayed reactions to things. At the KM in the Public Sector event I attended a couple of weeks ago, speaker after speaker said: "It's all about the people".

And it has generated an allergic reaction. They're right. But also wrong. It's not really about "the people" in the warm, fuzzy, humanistic way that phrase implies. Increasingly it's about how people work with and against sociotechnical ecosystems. And to many of us, these ecosystems are monstrous.

City folk (and for all the stories they tell themselves about their bush heritage, Australia is an urban society) have a tendency to venerate nature (provided it's neat & tidy &doesn't burn down your home). But the natural world is a disturbing place. And the world we have created to work in is no less disturbing.

Sometimes I wish it wasn't about the people.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Interesting (7): Moose & other things

Have you ever gone to "walk" your dogs by skiing? And then been chased by a moose? John McWhorter has.

Have you ever hung out in tango bars to master the art of that dance? Tiffany Kenyon has.

Have you ever set your own Fairtrade chocolate brand? Natasha Lewis has.

Do you provide sexual services to disabled people? Rachel Wotton does.

Have you tried to explain the colour green to blind kids? Errol Flannigan has.

You may not have done any of these things but I'm sure you have done something interesting. Would you care to share what?

Interesting (6): Zero

There were lots of people called "Tim" at Interesting. Tim Longhurst was another one. Tim is behind the Zero Coke Movement. Tim's energy & sheer charisma is a sight to behold.

Tim Baynes was another. Tim talked about the environment, the tragedy of the commons andthe problems with exponential change. And he was bloody funny in the process.

You're gonna miss me baby

You didn't realize

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Interesting (5): Vocology

Tim Noonan was possibly the most charming presenter last night. He has an obsession with people's voices (click on the link to find out one of the reasons why). The grain and timbre of the voice. Not so much the words as the texture of the voice and what this can tell you about the speaker. He even did a voice reading of an audience member on the spot.

He also made the point that we risk losing our sense of voice in a culture that is ever more visual. Whether this shift to the visual is actually happening, I don't know. But we do seem to spend more time how we look (clothing, hairstyles). Do we care how we sound?

Interesting (4): Hugs

I was wandering thru Pitt Street Mall a few weeks ago and there was a dude with a sign saying "Free Hugs". So I thought "why not" and we had a moment. And then my day carried on.

I did not know that this dude was Juan Mann or what his story was. Until last night. Juan has spent a great deal of time spreading the love.

Unfortunately, Juan is facing eviction soon and has a request: would you be willing to put him up? If you can, drop him a line.

Interesting (3): How am I living?

Dan Hill talked about "The Well-Tempered Personal Environment". We can measure our environments - the quantities of electricity & water we consume, the distances we travel on public and private transport. We could get feedback all the time on the way we are living. Dan has the image of a house with with a sustainability-type score floating about it. We see how we are doing. And we others and they see us.

Dan is describing a very quantitative type of enviromental awareness (he'd even mocked up Facebook widgets and such like) that we don't really have yet. I loved it...

Interesting (2): Making the tea

Lauren designed the set for Interesting. And made the tea. And gave some simple advice to those would want to engage with art "without feeling like a twat". Basically did heaps.

The stage was less of a set and more of an art installation. And it was quite cosy. Which is more than can be said for most art installations.

Interesting (1)

Patrick is reporting on his conference trail. And act-km was his pick of the bunch. And Patrick has a point. The richness and collegiality of the event was wonderful. But Interesting South ranks up there for me. Expect to see a flood of posts about IS stuff over the next few days. Nuff respekt to Emily & Co for their work on this. The venue was cool, the audience was up for it. The brain is fired up. The heart is pumping.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gamer culture

I don't get Second Life. I've been in there and felt lost. Is this because I am not a gamer?

Apparently 69% of American heads of households play computer and video games. And 30% of broadbanded Australians over 25 play games online. Ever since dabbling in Civ in '94, I've never really been into games.

So a few questions:
- What are the demographics of gamers? (i.e. who is likely to be one)
- Are gamers more likely to be users of virtual worlds?
- Is the % of gamers on the increase and what does that mean for the acceptance of virtual world environments?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mind the gap: negative space

Victoria Ward talks about knowledge and negative space. At one level this could be referring to unknowns. Possibly to ignorance. Even silence. It imples an edge. Something that needs to be mapped out.
An invitation to imagine themselves as vanished and see
1. what work does not get done when they are not at work and
2. what work would need to get done by another filling their shoes

What happens when you are not there? What gets missed/lost/left?

Some of this could be painted using SNA or value networks (the gaps created by removal of individuals or roles) but some kind of richer description might be required.

Different knowledge, same ****

James D talks about this paper from this paper from Haas & Hansen. It talks about the impact of the use of different knowledge resources by consulting sales teams. A lot of it rings true. I observed proposal teams working under tight deadlines rip off leverage previous proposal documents. This did not always result in a winning proposal as clients tended to prefer proposals tailored to them. The authors emphasize that different sources of knowledge are not necessarily "fungible" - i.e. you cannot replace expert insight with more documents:

This suggests that firms that primarily compete on quality can benefit most from emphasizing personal advice usage (and perhaps downplaying electronic document usage), while the opposite holds for firms relying on efficiency.

Which frankly is not such a surprise but nice to see in black-and-white. Of course, for many organisations, it is not a straight-forward decision between quality and efficiency but some combination of the two.

LinkedIn is not a social network (and even if it was it's useless)

TD's argument against LinkedIn seems a bit contrived. His point seems to be that: i. LinkedIn is not a social network and ii. it's not about business networking either.

Whilst TD might find the mixing of business and socialising "unseemly", I'm not sure the rest of us have such refined palates interaction-wise. I agree with TD completely that business networking is all about reciprocity. But LinkedIn has been a reciprocal experience for me. I tend not to accept links from people I don't know but my experience asking a question on LinkedIn about Green IT a few weeks ago was very powerful. All kinds of people got back to me. You can't just put your feet up as a user of these tools and whine that they don't seem to have any use. They have the uses that you put them to and are shaped by the way you respond to the uses of others.

LinkedIn could be an awful lot better at facilitating the exchange of information - not necessarily with business versions of Facebook's Zombies and Vampires ("NOOO, I have been bitten by a recruitment consultant").

Sunday, November 18, 2007

KM in Public Sector redux

Small but intense, the KM in the public sector conference was enlightening on a number of fronts.

Paul McDowall presented on the last 10 years of KM in Canadian public sector. Given that senior public officials are rotated every 18-24 months and the organisational changes involved in a full KM programme require 2-5 years, the story was largely one of bursts of activity & brilliance that were unsustained.

There were presentations by James Digges, Paulette Paterson, Craig Delahoy, Suzanne Zyngier & Nicholas Gerhard but the 4 delivered on the morning of the second day resonated with me. The SageCo / Country Energy presentation on managing the exit of baby boomer experts from a technical workforce was cool, as was David Pender's mix of ONA techniques with collaborative climate surveys. Steve Bussey of VicRoads talked about cultivating technical expertise and Kerry Moir's presso on KM in ATO Business Solutions (which included CoPs, lessons learned & narrative) overlaps with a lot of things I have been involved with from a work perspective.

And it was a whole heap of fun co-presenting with Keith De La Rue. Cheers...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

You're talking about stuff I haven't done yet in the past tense and it's driving me crazy

To answer the question from Ray Jimenez, we can't tell them what to do. We can work on it with them. I'm conscious in next week's double-act with Keith, I cannot give the people there "best practice". Because there isn't any yet (and when there is, I'll probably lose interest). There are things that have worked and things that haven't. And sometimes they're the same thing.

S'funny. I was explaining the blog thang to someone at work today. We had the "won't another tool confuse people" thang.

James R uses the "portfolio" word - which I can quite keen on. The notion that the risks of collaboration are managed by using a range of tools. But "armoury" is perhaps a better term. And you need a "collaboration" map for these things as well...

mummy, what is corporate learning?

Gav Heaton & Patrick Lambe have both drawn my attention to Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovations. There are some good speakers and I'd recommend everyone to register now.

Friday, November 02, 2007

i went through a gruelling emotional journey and all i got was this lousy evalution form

I was a witness (& sparing contributor) to the "happy sheet" debate that Viv describes. Evaluation is a tricky thing. And is carried out for many purposes. Evaluation forms are rarely for facilitators or participants in the room. They are artifacts for those that weren't there. Viv's antipathy to evaluation forms reminds me of Johnnie's dislike of action item lists & flip-chart write-ups. We're not comfortable with this touchy-feely stuff and we need the comfort of tangible to ease this anxiety. Provided the workshop generates a big pile of "stuff" (preferably involved spreadsheets & graphs), we can rest easy that time was not wasted and resources misallocated. I don't mind evaluation forms & action item lists. Sometimes taking away comfort blankets is too hard & counter-productive...

Creativity: reflections

I've done the creativity & innovation sessions 3 times now. Twice @UTS with ACT-KM in between (slides here). I kinda stumbled into doing them and each time, I've played with the format - cutting, tweaking, exploring. Some of it works well and some of it less so.

The way people have engaged with this material has been very heartening. It touches on things that everyone can relate to. And it suits the light style of facilitation / teaching that I favour.

It comes in two halves - one section on creativity and one on innovation (& clocks in at somewhere between 2-3 hours for the lot). The creativity half is nearly there. The basic structure is: exercise - theory - personal reflection - theory - discussion. I'd like to delve into the theory a bit more (most of it is currently based on Theresa Amabile's work), possibly bring in a few more perspectives. And the exercise is currently an odd hybrid of improv & brainstorming. If I get to do it again, I may play with other exercises.

The innovation half I am less happy with. In some ways, that topic is bigger and harder to get into. Using things like the Cynefin model confuses people as much as it helps. I also think it lacks an overarching structure. I'm going back to the books for this one.

KM in the Public Sector - Nov 14/15

I'll be at this conference. I was going to be talking about social software. Now it'll be me & Keith De La Rue doing a tag-team, good-cop-bad-cop session on the same. If you are attending & have a burning question about this topic that you'd like us to address, drop me a line beforehand.